Oakland authorities failed to intervene in neighbor slain, lawsuit states

5 mins read

Despite nearly two dozen 911 calls, Oakland Police Department and Alameda County probation officers failed to intervene before a man was shot to death by his neighbor, a lawsuit filed this week states. 

The death lawsuit was filed on behalf of the family of Miles Armstead. 

According to Jamal Thomas and attorneys, Armstead was shot to death on May 1, 2020, as he was moving out of his home. Armstead and his family decided to sell the house to escape the harassment from a squatter who lived next door. 

“Miles was literally cleaning up the front yard of the house he had sold in fear of Jamal Thomas when Thomas chased him down and shot him,” the lawsuit states.

Between 2019 and 2020, Thomas would throw rocks at the Armstead family home, threaten to burn it down and injure Armstead’s wife. Armstead has called 911 at least 23 times within six months. 

“Mr. Thomas had obvious mental health issues which contributed to him experiencing violent, uncontrollable yet persistent outbursts,” the suit states.

The lawsuit states that when Oakland police officers responded to the 911 calls, officers “complained” that they were understaffed and overworked, and that the incidents were not high-priorities. 

An OPD officer even said they were “acting like 12-year-old girls, both of you guys!” 

Attorneys claim that the police’s inaction fueled Thomas to continue harassing the Armstead family home. 

Defendants listed in the lawsuit include the Oakland Police Department, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, and the Alameda County Probation Department.

Spokespersons for OPD and the City Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the matter. “The Oakland Police Department does not comment on pending litigation,” OPD public information officer Kim Armstead said.

Armstead, 44, was a wealth management banket at Fremont Bank. He purchased a home at 2901 76th Avenue in Oakland in 2017 with his wife and children. 

The lawsuit states, “The elation the young family experienced when they embarked on homeownership quickly soured approximately two years after the Armsteads moved in. Their neighbor, Mr. Jamal Thomas, began a relentless campaign of terror and harassment against the family. Mr. Thomas terrorized the Armsteads with broken windows, verbal threats, physical attacks, and eventually killed Mr. Armstead due to the failures of the Oakland Police Department, the County of Alameda, and the Armsteads’ neighboring landlord who permitted, emboldened, and ultimately not only placed the Armsteads in harm’s way but significantly increased the danger and fanned the homicidal flames burning in Mr. Thomas’ mind.”

Thomas and his family were evicted from their longtime home in August 2019. Two months later, Thomas returned to the house as a squatter. 

The harassment by Thomas started on Thanksgiving Day 2019 when he banged on the front door of the Armsteads and attempted to break in. 

“Unfortunately, this was just the first incident in a six-month sequence of increasingly harassing and threatening behavior directed at the Armstead family. The Armsteads faithfully called and reported the incidents to the police. Nevertheless, defendant officers working for the Oakland Police Department failed to make an arrest, detain, and/or curb the behavior,” attorneys wrote.

The harassment and assault resulted in the Armstead family boarding up their home and filing a restraining order against Thomas to protect themselves. 

Police body camera video shows Miles Armstead on April 8, 2020 next to his boarded-up house. He was murdered weeks later.

In March of 2020, two months before Armstead was shot to death, Thomas was taken into custody briefly for making threats. He was released from jail under the supervision of the County of Alameda Probation Department. 

According to the lawsuit, probation officers failed to ever follow up with Thomas as part of his pretrial supervised released conditions.

Thomas is currently being held in Santa Rita Jail in Dublin on murder and assault charges. He is scheduled to appear in court Friday.


Charlene is a Bay Area journalist who hails from the small community of Fresno. Drawing from her experience writing for her college paper, Charlene continues to advocate for free press and local journalism. She also volunteers in all the beach cleanups she can because she loves the water.